On Saturday, November 20, MSNBC aired a segment by activist Gyasi Ross comparing Thanksgiving to genocide. “But I’m still trying to find out what indigenous people received of value. Instead of bringing stuffing and biscuits, those settlers brought genocide and violence…” he said. Ross’s ignorance and searing rhetoric contradicts the historical record but nevertheless has been fueled by an educational and media establishment determined to uproot Western Civilization. The fact that a major news network would provide any airtime to Ross—and that its viewers would applaud the move—highlights the depth of the rot in mainstream society.
Conservatives rightly pounced on the story as proof of “leftist” media bias. This may be true, but their attempts to push back against Ross and his message suffer from the same type of historical ignorance, namely the Yankee myth of American history. The “story of Thanksgiving” where the helpless Pilgrims overcame hardship by breaking bread with American Indian tribes makes for a good Charlie Brown cartoon and a Rush Limbaugh series of books, but the real first Thanksgiving, the version no one is taught in school, offers a more compelling defense of Western Civilization.
Thankfully, Shotwell Publishing has published a new children’s book that explains the true origins and history of the first English Thanksgiving in America. Written and illustrated by Charles Hayes, The Real First Thanksgiving takes young readers on an adventure to Old Virginia and the roots of the American experiment. Virginia established the first representative government in North America and hosted the first English thanksgiving. It provided the framework for the American experience, and in contrast to Ross’s assertions of “genocide,” faced near extermination from starvation, disease, and frequent Indian attacks. In fact, the annual Thanksgiving inaugurated at Berkeley Hundred, Virginia only lasted for about a year as most of the men and women were slaughtered by the local Indians.
Americans would do well to remember the prominence of Virginia in early American society, not because as Nikole Hannah-Jones insists it introduced African slavery to American history, but because it was home to American self-government and American traditions like Thanksgiving. We should applaud Hayes and Shotwell Publishing for making this true story of Thanksgiving accessible to young readers—and to adults who also need to know the real history of the event.